Adelaide, Adelaide Fringe 2015

Abbott! The Musical, Adelaide Fringe Festival

0 Comments 06 March 2015

The success of the musical Keating! means that expectations of politically-themed musicals are high. Keating!, which traces the career of its titular Prime Minister, started out as a small show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival before being redeveloped and playing to much bigger houses across the country.

In theory, it is possible for something like Abbott! The Musical to follow a similar trajectory; the time is surely right for a clever satire of our current leader. Unfortunately, Abbott! is not clever enough to rise this far. While comparisons with Keating! are unfair, they do provide an example of what a good political musical can be, casting a big shadow on  Abbott! The Musical.

Abbott! is the work of Adelaide-based comedy trio George Glass, along with extra collaborators. It follows Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, starting at election night and ending with his current position at the bottom of the polls. Abbott is accompanied by stalwarts like Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison, as well as PR man and speechwriter Michael, who shadows the politicians on his research mission. The actors double as musicians, with songs accompanied by keyboard, guitar and even flute.

The show takes aim at the government’s policies on asylum seekers and climate change, while also featuring Abbott’s many gaffes, such as those concerning women. The script is pun-heavy, particularly in a beleaguered opening scene in which cabinet ministers are introduced with a pun each. There are numerous references to current affairs squeezed in, many obviously or carelessly done. Scenes are structured around the content and quotes that needed to be included rather than how they will progress the story, which ends suddenly.

Channel 9’s Kevin Crease Studio is a difficult venue to play in, a vast stage and long auditorium making it difficult for the outer audience to see much of the action. Putting the venue aside, it is curious that in a musical, one of the main characters has a poor singing voice.

There is some light to be found. Nic Conway’s Tony Abbott impersonation is convincing, with awkward pauses in all the right places. The depiction of Joe Hockey as a ravenous, insensitive creature is played well, with Hockey stealing many scenes and songs with his perfect comic timing. The inclusion of a lit-up ‘Quote’ sign whenever one of Abbott’s real quotes is cited is a nifty feature which highlights Abbott’s notorious foot in mouth disease.

Tony Abbott’s political career is rife with readily-mocked events. It is a shame that Abbott! focuses so intently on using quotes, and features just the prime ministerial period. As a result, Abbott! convincingly skewers neither the Liberal Party, its policies or its leader, instead becoming a vehicle to display political puns and senseless things that Tony Abbott has said throughout his career.  It is similarly disappointing that this piece which sounds so promising misses the mark.

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This post was written by who has written 6 posts on Buzzcuts.

Rose is a recent Arts and International Studies graduate and admin wizard. She has a keen interest in theatre, film and performing arts. She also loves naan bread.

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